Tuesday, August 9, 2016

ELPs and the Classroom Teacher Shortage, Part 1

By Sam Piha


Sam Piha
With the last economic recession, school districts across the nation and in California laid off large numbers of teachers. The recent uptick of the economy and increased tax dollars for education, districts are now experiencing a large shortage of teachers. We also know that the number of college students who have enrolled in education courses have dropped significantly. 

How can expanded learning programs (ELPs) contribute to solving this shortage? (By expanded learning programs, we are referring to school and community-based youth programs.) We believe they can help in two ways:

  • Serve as a training ground for students enrolled in education/teacher programs. 
  • Inspire youth workers who may be interested in advancing their careers by entering the teaching profession. 

Photo Credit: Education Week
ELPs are perfectly positioned to allow young workers and future teachers the opportunity to learn skills that are very important to classroom work: 

  • How to build a caring community of youth.
  • How to form meaningful relationships with youth.
  • How to use project based learning to advance engagement and align these experiences with the interests of youth.
  • How to advance social emotional learning and character skills through youth programming.
  • And more…

In Part 1, we offer interview responses from ELP leader (Alec Lee, Aim High) and a teacher training leader (Mike Snell, California Teaching Fellows Foundation). Also, Aim High was featured in Education Week for their success in encouraging youth workers to pursue a career in teaching. Click here to read the article.  

In Part 2, we will feature interview responses from teachers who began their careers as youth workers. 
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Q: Can you say something about the recent teacher shortage in California and the Central Valley? What is this and what caused it? 

MS: The teacher shortage is real. In speaking with superintendents and school
district leadership, it is a challenge to fill open teacher positions within the district. This is especially true in our more rural school districts. As increasing waves of baby boomers retire and interest in joining the teaching profession has been in steady decline, the demand and access to the quality gap is huge. 

As I connect with national after school providers across the country, they describe the challenges in their regions as being similar. Plain and simple, there are not enough young people choosing education as a career path, therefore credential programs are not able to produce the number of teachers required to meet the current demand. 

Recent studies suggest that the number of high school students interested in teaching as a career path has declined 55% in the last 10 years, from 9% of graduating seniors wanting to teach, to only 4%. I believe that those of us in the expanded learning space have a huge opportunity to influence young people’s perception of teaching as a career choice. Beyond opportunity, I believe we have a responsibility to all young people to place the best and brightest after school leaders in front of them, and my desired outcome is that this experience influences both the after school leaders as well as our young people, to promote teaching as a career choice. 

Q: How are afterschool and summer youth programs well-positioned to serve as good training grounds for young people who want to be teachers? 

MS: After school and summer present the best opportunities for those interested in education to gain tremendous real life experiences working with young people and working within the K-12 system. Year-round, after-school and summer staff earn hundreds, and in many cases, thousands of hours of classroom experience to build them up and prepare them for their career in education. Beyond experience at the point of service, our staff benefit from additional professional development and training around the systems and strategies that school districts deploy to accomplish their goals for all students.  

This is vital real world experience. They meet the school district support team, they collaborate with seasoned teachers, and often they interface with the superintendent. Developing these relationships while they are attending college and building their professional context for eduction provides a huge ‘foot in the door’ opportunity and will typically provide them advantages when competing for a teaching job against another candidate without after school or summer experience. They learn about the work, the culture, the preparation, the challenges, and they truthfully go into the profession incredibly well prepared. Here at Teaching Fellows we hear regularly from the over 40 superintendents we serve that are absolutely looking to our after school and summer staff as the best training ground and talent pool for future teachers in their respective districts.  

AL: Summer is a time to be different and step away from traditional classroom learning environments. At Aim High, our class size is 15-18 with two or three teachers in each classroom. Our curriculum is project-based and culturally relevant. We do two weeks of professional development before the kids come through the door. As a non-profit, we are freed from the constraints of public schools. We position ourselves at the intersection of rigor and fun. Young people are paired with lead teachers who have the opportunity to mentor. Summer can be a teaching laboratory. Lastly, many summer programs are community based and provide the opportunity to really know kids and their potential, issues and challenges very well.

Q: How are afterschool and summer youth programs well-positioned to encourage young people to consider the teaching profession as the next step in their career? 

MS: The population of millennials, which is our current college-age population, will far outsize the baby boomer numbers. The generation that follows the millennials will be even larger. This population trend coupled with the national rise in after school programs and systems of support will be the key to attracting, train and retain generations of future teachers. With after school and summer staff leaders now in this space, we have the tremendous opportunity to leave a lasting impression and challenge students to follow in our footsteps, to choose a career that shapes careers. 

The Teaching Fellows are uniquely positioned to encourage young people a few different ways; Teaching Fellows match the demographics of the students they serve so there is a built-in level of trust. Furthermore, Teaching Fellows are college-attending role models for young people, students look up to Teaching Fellows and think ‘if they did this, then I can do this too’. That type of influence is powerful. These two factors uniquely position Teaching Fellows, and many other after school and summer staff to be in positions to encourage and inspire young people into the education profession, and to pursue their dreams.

AL: Young youth workers in Aim High are given tremendous responsibility and opportunity. They also experience a culture of feedback and growth. Lastly, they work side by side with professional educators.

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About Aim High
Aim High is committed to closing the opportunity and achievement gaps in Northern California through their transformative summer learning program. They envision every middle school student having access to joyful summer learning, inspired and innovative teachers, and the support they need to succeed in school and life. Aim High creates life-changing opportunities during the summer and beyond. Their community:

  • Nurtures the promise and potential of middle school students from low-income neighborhoods
  • Prepares students for high school, setting them on the path to college and future success
  • Inspires the next generation of teachers and educational leaders


About The California Teaching Fellows Foundation (CTFF)
CTFF seeks to inspire next-generation leaders with a passion for teaching and learning while impacting the lives of youth. They work to:

  • Develop teachers and leaders who contribute to positive changes in the lives of students, their schools, and their communities.
  • Produce diverse teaching professionals who implement innovative, effective teaching strategies.
  • Fully engage the community in education and supporting future teachers and leaders. 

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